B2B marketers face many unique challenges, especially as the B2B purchase process continues to evolve with changing software and technological solutions. Additionally, the purchase cycle has grown longer, according to a 2017 survey from Demand Gen, and involves a growing number of B2B buyers within a company operating as a team.
B2B buyers don’t have the same needs or pain points as consumers, but it pays to remember that they are indeed people. Digital, radio, and magazine advertising represent powerful solutions to reach them — but to do so effectively, you need to first understand them.
6 B2B Buyer Trends Marketers Should Know
1. Buyers are Under More Pressure to Show ROI
On the buyer’s end, the purchase cycle is getting longer because more and more people are involved in making the decision, and different stages of approval are required before the purchase can actually be made. It should be no surprise, then, that 89% of Demand Gen’s respondents said that vendors who ultimately won their business provided content that built a case for purchase, or made it easier to show ROI.
To gain a competitive edge, marketers should provide this information earlier in the consideration process. Offering proof points and benefit statements in your digital, radio, and magazine ads can pique buyers’ interest and direct them to visit your website for more in-depth content, case studies, or a chance to connect with your team.
2. Early Opinions are Shaped by Advertising and Browsing Potential Vendor Websites
Your company website isn’t just the perfect real estate to tell your brand story — it's also where buyers just expect to find information. Your site is a critical piece of the B2B buyer’s brand experience, and it heavily influences their opinions before they even consider approaching your brand. Consider that 66% of respondents in the aforementioned Demand Gen survey said it was very important to them for vendors to have a specialized site dedicated specifically to their industry.
Advertising plays an important role as well. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) noticed ads for the winning vendor during their research phase, 32% of which said it had a positive impact on their opinion.
3. Personalization is Now a Make or Break Factor
Despite the fact that a majority of buyers will conduct online research anonymously, they still expect their experience to be personalized. Two thirds of Demand Gen’s survey respondents said it was very important for a vendor to speak directly to needs in their specific industry via their website content. Another three quarters expected vendor sites to provide content speaking directly to their company’s needs and goals. In fact, Demand Gen has elaborated on this further in a recent article, stating that industry experts expect the new norm to be B2B marketers leveraging data and hyper-personalization in the same way as their B2C counterparts.
While the study only touches on personalized experiences on vendor websites, the same logic can be applied across touchpoints. Even mass reach channels like radio and magazine can be personalized when properly targeted.
4. Buyers are Heavily Influenced by Peers
If you know anything about consumer shopping habits, you know that most people are heavily influenced by reviews and advice from friends and family, as well as social reviews and influencers (who are often viewed in the same light as close friends). The same is true in B2B decision makers. More than two-thirds (67%) point to peer recommendations as what they rely on heavily for final purchase decisions. What’s more, 42% pointed to peers and colleagues as their top source of information.
With that in mind, examine if and how you’re influencing B2B buyer’s peers, or if your brand is on their radar at all. Leveraging marketing solutions like Inside Columbia publications (including its CEO Magazine) can help build brand awareness and perception with these influencers, making your company a more top-of-mind, reputable choice. Utilizing the radio for a testimonial campaign is also a great way to build brand recognition by highlighting customers who are already loyal to your brand.
5. Buyers Want Interactions to be Friction-Free
Most B2B buyers say it’s important to be able to access content from vendors without having to fill out long forms. Even more (94%) prefer vendors providing easily consumable content. Nearly all (97%) say it’s important for vendors to provide timely responses to inquiries. Remember, the purchase cycle is already long, and 17% of respondents said it lengthened significantly over the year before.
B2B buyers have precious little time, and they don’t want to waste it researching vendors who make the process more difficult. Make valuable content readily available, and mention it in your advertising, providing direct access when possible. Don’t forget that many B2B buyers want to conduct early research anonymously, so you need to balance lead generation with what will best position your company for a new contract.
6. Insights are a Key Differentiator
We’ve already mentioned that buyers prefer vendors with personalized content that speaks directly to their industry and their company’s unique needs. However, personalization should be balanced with genuine expertise. Most buyers (94%) specifically sought out the sales teams for vendors that displayed insights into their company’s goals and pain points. Demonstrating this level of expertise and personal attention gives your company a competitive edge. Another 92% of buyers felt that the sales rep for the winning vendor was properly educated about their company’s specifics. What’s more, 85% pointed to it as a factor that influenced their ultimate purchase decision.
As a marketer, you’re looking to reach a customer — but for the buyer, they’re looking for a partner they can trust to give them solutions that will improve their business and help them grow. Establish this trust as early as possible by marketing on two of the most trusted advertising channels: magazine and radio.
Jeff Marcoux, VP of Product Strategy & Marketing at TTEC, was giving the keynote speech at B2BMX 2018 when he said, “Personas and segments don’t buy your product — a human buys your product.” (via Demand Gen) This perfectly captures the underlying takeaway from the trends outlined above. Namely, B2B buyers are more similar to consumers than you might think.